Use These Apps to Get Immediate Help for the Homeless
Homeless Apps may sound a little odd. But cheap smartphones, relief programs, and youth homeless means that many people have a phone but no home. (As of 2011, nearly two-thirds of young people who are homeless had cell phones .) And in several cities, they can use mobile apps to find food, shelter and other resources.
These apps will also be useful to anyone who has ever come into contact with the homeless and wants to do more to help. As Fast Company’s Adele Peters notes, calling the police is an extremely risky response: She lists several recent police shootings of homeless people. Instead, call a civil service like 311, or download one of these apps.
OurCalling app lists services such as addiction recovery, food resources, shelters and more, anywhere in the country. The app is related to the Christian ministry in Dallas, so it will also feature local services for that ministry.
Designed for youth homeless,StreetLight Chicago provides maps and information for shelters, clinics, emergency services and mental health services. It lists the opening hours of the shelters, food and hygiene services, and how to book a bed or visit. It also provides in-app reservations for one shelter on the north side.
In New York, where the number of homeless people has doubled over the past decade, HelpFinder NYC lists resources in health care, housing and legal aid, food and clothing, and employment and education services.
New Yorkers can also use the universal 311 app to request homeless care. At the bottom of the main page, click Request and search or scroll to Help the Homeless. You can add location and other details and, if you like, provide your contact details.
In the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, Concrn is a simple application for requesting a “responsive person” when emergency services are not needed. The clerk usually calls the user for more information and then comes in and helps the homeless person find suitable services. Users can specify the urgency of the request (options include “this week”, “within an hour” and “now”) and add a photo and text.
Elsewhere in San Francisco, Link-SF is a simplified mobile site that lists resources about food, housing, hygiene, healthcare, and Internet or computer access. The site is a partnership between Zendesk and the non-profit St. Anthony Foundation.
In addition to national applications such as OurCalling, your region may have its own local application. Google and check common city services apps to see if they have a homeless help feature.
It is common in the news about these apps that they are underutilized, and the lack of reviews and ratings in the app store confirms this. (Many applications do not even overcome institutional resistance and regulation .) Instead, people continue to call already overloaded city services or even the police. So download the app now before you need it. Someday it might help you save someone’s life.